Review: _The Amazing Maurice and..._ is a great twist on traditional fairy tales. But not for small children, please.
The last couple of years I have been happily exploring the works of Terry Pratchett, the creator of one of the best fantasy worlds ever, the Discworld. Floating, seemingly serenely through space on the backs of four immense elephants and a sea turtle, the Discworld is very close to our own world in tone and flavour, but there are some vital differences. For one, Magic works -- and not only in the ways that you would expect.
As the novel opens, in the distant Uberwald, a coach is in the midst of being robbed. The person who is having the worst of it is a young boy, obviously poor, but as the thieves quickly discover, he's not without allies. Namely, the Amazing Maurice, a streetwise cat who doesn't suffer fools gladly, and an assortment of very canny rodents.
The rodents are a group of laboratory rats who found themselves eating from a rubbish heap that had some questionable material. They can think -- and not little thoughts either -- but quick, often life-changing thoughts. And they can use tools as well. While Maurice would much prefer eating them, he and the rats have come to an 'understanding.' The three, as it were -- boy, cat and rats -- have rigged up a scam of tricking villagers into thinking that their homes are being infested with the rats, and with the help of the cat and the boy's flute, they clear out the town of both the rats and all the valuables.
It's a good trick, but the local towns are starting to smell the trick and they have to come up with a new ploy. Together they all decide to pull one last scam, and make enough money to keep everyone going for a time, or at least until they can get far away enough not to be caught...
Maurice is privately thinking of bolting, having little regard for his companions, and being a cat. Cats are not usually known for their altrusism, especially where rodents are concerned. But something is holding him back, and that's making Maurice uncomfortable indeed.
Of the rats, there are clearly leaders, such as Hamnpork and Darktan, and even a philosopher, dangerous Beans, who is nearly blind, but my favourite was Peaches, who was charming, a bit shy, but always determined to do her best. I loved how Pratchett was able to give each of them a distinct personality.
What is enjoyable about this one is that beneath the adventure is plenty of good storytelling, and just a touch of creepiness. Bad Blintz, the town where everyone ends up, may sound straight out of the Brothers Grimm, but at the heart of it was something truly evil. I'm not talking about something wicked or bad, but this time Pratchett came with something that made my stomach turn and my flesh crawl.
Which is why I don't recommend this one for pre-teens. The story goes down some very dark ways. Most teens should be able to handle it, but adult readers will spot right off that this lacks the more subtle, adult material that most of the Discworld novels. All in all, this gets a four star rating. It's not one of the great novels in the series, but it is a good one.
In addition to the novel, there are some extras, such as Pratchett's acceptance speech on receiving the Carnegie Medal, a question and answer session, and an excerpt from _The Wee Free Men._
1. The Colour of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites (Witches, 1 )
6.Wyrd Sisters (Witches, 2 )
8. Guards! Guards!
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad (Witches, 3 )
13. Small Gods
14.Lords and Ladies (Witches, 4 )
15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting Times
19. Feet of Clay
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. The Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents -- you are here
29. Night Watch
30. The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching, 1 )
31. Monstrous Regiment
32. A Hat Full of Sky (Tiffany Aching, 2 )
33. Going Postal (Moist von Lipswig, 1 )
35. Wintersmith (Tiffany Aching, 3 )
36. Making Money (Moist von Lipswig, 2 )
37. Unseen Academicals
38. I Shall Wear Midnight (Tiffany Aching, 4 )
40. Raising Steam
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
2001; HarperCollins Publishers
Rebecca Huston asserts her rights as the sole owner of this review. This review was previously published elsewhere and the original review has since been removed from the original site.